Confessions & Memory In Criminal Cases
My Job Is To Fight To Protect Your Rights — Even If You Confessed
I am criminal law attorney Steven Sherlag, of the law firm of Steven J. Sherlag, P.C., in Portland. I have more than 20 years of experience protecting the rights of people charged with crimes in western Oregon, including reversing confessions made by people who were under threatening duress by the police. These cases are winnable and I have won many of them.
If you were under investigation for a misdemeanor or felony crime and confessed in order to arrange a lighter sentence, it doesn’t mean your case is over. Police and prosecutors in Oregon are under very strict constitutional rules regarding techniques they can use to extract a confession. If there is evidence that you were coerced or did not fully understand the offense you were pleading guilty to, your confession and conviction may be thrown out.
Did You Admit To Something? Or Did You Actually Confess?
Police often mistake an admission made during an interrogation as a confession to the crime. For example, you may have admitted being present at the scene of an assault. That doesn’t mean you confessed to committing the crime. For some police, though, you were guilty by association. Police interrogations are frightening and intimidating, and people often say things in a way that may sound incriminating. But there is a difference between getting your words mixed up and actually confessing to a crime.
Mental Health Issues
Police interrogation techniques are harsh, even for people of sound mental capacity. In cases involving mental health issues, the scare tactics they use can be overwhelming. If you or a loved one with mental or emotional health problems has been convicted on a confession, there may be options available to have the confession disallowed from court.
Confessions Can Be Overturned. These Cases Are Winnable.
There is a broad range of reasons a confession may be disallowed by the courts, including:
- Coercive interrogation techniques that violated your rights
- You were covering for a loved one
- Mental health or personality disorder
- The police misunderstood what you said during the interrogation
- Improper jury instructions on defendant’s statements
- Confused memories under duress of interrogation
- Police used illegally obtained physical evidence to force a confession
The Problem With Memory When Extracting A Confession
When people recall something from memory, it isn’t like watching a video camera. People tend to rewrite their memory files according to new information they have encountered since the actual event. Memory is dynamic. Trying to recall it over and over again during police interrogation is likely to bring up a different version each time. Even if the person is confident about his or her recollection of a particular incident, there is often an inverse relationship. The more confident about the memory, the more likely his or her recollection is incorrect
Intimidating interrogation is not an objective gathering of evidence. Police and prosecutors often draw improper conclusions from interviews during the investigation, which leads to wrong assumptions and a ‘confirmation bias’ about what you said under duress. Their tunnel vision can lead to charges and a plea agreement that can be overturned by the courts. My job as your defense lawyer is to exploit that bias and tunnel vision and make the courts see that the interrogation techniques directly led to a confession that violated your rights.
If You Confessed To A Crime Under Police Duress, Call Me
Call or send an email with a brief description of your circumstances. From my offices in Portland, I represent clients in Multnomah County, Washington County, Clackamas County, Columbia County and Yamhill County, Oregon.
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